While Dragonflies and Damselflies are in reality completely harmless to man, a number of myths have arisen about them, here are a few that can be ‘debunked’.
Dragonflies don’t sting. They don’t have any stinging parts. Dragonflies capture and overpower their prey and have no need for stinging. Occasionally, females try to oviposit in completely inappropriate situations, such as on a boot or even someone’s head. This might be confused with a stinging action as the abdomen probes, but it’s merely a confused dragonfly!
Dragonflies aren’t poisonous. They have no venom, and aren’t poisonous to other creatures. Birds in particular, such as Hobbies and Bee Eaters regularly prey on dragonflies. Many dragonflies have typical warning colours of red and black, or yellow and black, but this is more likely a survival tactic than a warning.
Dragonflies don’t bite. Their mouth parts are too small to have any real effect on people. You may feel it if a dragonfly bit you, but it’s not common to be bitten as a threatened dragonfly would simply fly away rather than attack.
Dragonflies live for more than a day. Not to be confused with the Mayfly, dragonflies live for about two weeks as immature adults, and a week or two longer as reproducing adults. Some species live several years as larvae. Dragonflies generally don’t hibernate.
In many European cultures dragonflies and damselflies have aroused superstition and associations with the devil or misfortune. Old European names for dragonflies include ‘devils darning needles‘, ‘horse stingers‘, and ‘water witch‘. Whereas in Eastern cultures, Odonata are often seen as benign, providing much inspiration for haiku poetry for example.
In reality Odonata are wonderful harmless creatures that are a joy to watch. They eat pest insects such as mosquitoes and are good indicators of water quality and environmental changes.